The following principles guide the IWI:
- Integrated Ecoystem Approach
- Binational Collaboration
- Involvement of local expertise
- Public engagement
- Balanced and inclusive board representation
- Open and respectful dialogue
- Adaptive management perspective
Integrated ecosystem approach to transboundary water issues. An integrated ecosystem approach considers the watershed ecosystem as a whole, taking into account local communities, flora, and fauna and attempting to balance all interests without being confined to one side of the border.
Binational collaboration. Equal participation from Canada and the U.S., as well as shared awareness and understanding of the issues influencing transboundary water quality and water flows are core elements of effective stewardship of these transboundary waters. Determining a common set of scientifically credible facts is essential and is achieved through binational collaboration in joint fact finding, monitoring, and reporting on the quality, conditions, threats, and opportunities for these shared waters.
Involvement of local expertise. Each watershed has its unique geography, ecosystems and challenges that are understood by the local community. Local people and institutions are often the best placed to anticipate, prevent or resolve many problems related to water resources and the environment and to take shared actions towards sustainability. Engagement of local expertise is fundamental to effectively addressing any water issue.
Public engagement. The waters in these transboundary basins belong to the people, and an informed and engaged public is critical for successful water stewardship. Watershed boards promote opportunities for the public to be continuously informed on the status of issues and results to date, and to share views and guidance on a regular basis. Hosting public meetings, distributing reports and holding informative water forums and workshops are essential for facilitating the exchange of ideas and provide a platform to share the latest scientific knowledge and best practices with everyone in the basin.
Balanced and inclusive board representation. Transboundary water stewardship is strengthened through diverse perspectives, expertise, and frames of reference. Watershed boards are most effective when federal, state, and provincial members are joined by members from First Nation, American Tribes and Métis communities, as well as from local governments, non-governmental organizations, industry, and the private sector. Watershed boards must be representative of the watershed community and reflect diverse expertise, gender parity and geographic representation.
Open and respectful dialogue. Diverse perspectives are respected and efforts are made to build trust and understanding while striving for consensus with the consideration of broad stakeholder engagement during deliberations. There will be times when consensus may not be achievable, and a majority may need to choose the desired outcome, but all voices will have had the opportunity to be heard through a collaborative process.
Adaptive management perspective. Transboundary water stewardship is an ongoing process with ecosystems in constant flux (e.g., changing climate and land use practices), and stakeholder needs and concerns ever-evolving. Iteratively assessing the effectiveness of decisions over time with new data and science will enable actions to be identified that will lead to improved water stewardship.